Securing Children’s Rights – An Initiative for Implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child in Religious and Spiritual Communities

Arigatou International and Child Rights Education for Professionals (CRED-PRO) have jointly initiated a process of developing a child rights education curriculum for faith professionals.

The initiative is based on a vision to support and nurture the human rights of children in the work of faith communities – particularly through their leadership.  At the center of this vision is the intention to establish curricula of child rights education for faith community professionals.  A Steering Committee of experts has been solicited with the purpose of involving interested faith communities and child rights leadership in designing, piloting, disseminating and establishing child rights education for faith community professionals and lay leadership. Arigatou International is through the Geneva office taking the leadership in this initiative together with CRED-PRO and Arigatou International is providing secretarial support for the initiative in its first phases.

A first face-to-face meeting of the Steering Committee was held at New York University on 13 – 14 May 2013. Members of the Steering Committee have met earlier in virtual meetings but assembled now for two days to explore and design the strategic direction and focus for the project as well as the immediate next steps in the process. The UNICEF Director for Programmes, Mr. Nicholas Alipui, joined the Steering Committee to discuss the UNICEF participation and contribution to the project. He underlined that partnerships and collaborations are the single most important strategic orientation of UNICEF and among them he singled out the commitment to support and work with faith-based initiatives for children’s rights. Mr. Joost Kooijmans also participated in the meeting representing Ms. Marta Santos Pais, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Violence against Children. He said that although working with faith-based communities is growing, it is still an untapped resource, which must be included in the full spectrum of child protection services and this initiative would be important in building capacity within communities in order to address violence against children.

The members of the Steering Committee were assisted at the meeting by two undergraduate students from the University of Notre Dame. The students will team up with students from the New York University and the Mahidol University in Thailand for a mapping to single out resources as well as steps needed for the project, thereby identifying communities to be involved, expectations by faith communities and obstacles.

The members of the Steering Committee are Dr. Kala Acharya from K.J. Somaiya Bharatiya Sanskriti Peetham in India; Dr. David Elcott from New York University; Mr. Kul Gautam, former Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF, from Nepal; Dr. Azza Karam, Senior Advisor at the United Nations Population Fund; Dr. Clark Power from University of Notre Dame; Mr. Gene Roehlkepartain from the Search Institute; Mr. Paul Stephenson from World Vision International; and, Dr. Parichart Suwanbubbha from the Mahidol University in Bangkok.

The project is coordinated by Dr. Stuart Hart from CRED-PRO and Ms. Agneta Ucko from Arigatou International.

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